The History of TanenbaumCHAT
Founded as a community initiative in 1960, the ‘Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto’ – referred to universally as “CHAT” (later renamed TanenbaumCHAT) – TanenbaumCHAT has never lost its community character.
An early record of the school Board of Directors suggested that the theoretical maximum number of students that the community high school could ever hope to recruit was “perhaps as many as 400.” Today, the school is almost four times that maximum figure.
TanenbaumCHAT has grown to over 1,400 students across two campuses, making the school the largest Jewish high school in the Diaspora. The school is regarded as one of the leading schools in Greater Toronto, and one of the premier Jewish schools of the world.
In 1979, the school moved to premises on Wilmington Avenue, initially sharing the space with other schools. Within a few years it occupied the whole premises. By the late 1990s the school had completely outgrown its facilities. Close to 900 students occupied the original buildings, plus a ‘village’ of no less than sixteen portables on the back field.
A trailblazing and generous gift from Anne Tanenbaum enabled the extension and renovation of the Wilmington site. The school was transformed with a complete new classroom wing, gym, space for the library and a covered atrium.
An additional major donation in 2008 from Gil and Elise Palter entitled them to name the Wilmington Campus. In an unusual gesture, they invited the school students and staff to choose a ‘significant name from Jewish history’ for the site. The school voted to name the campus after Raoul Wallenberg, an outstanding ‘Righteous Gentile’ who saved thousands of Jewish lives in wartime Budapest.
Establishing a second campus : With the school’s rapid growth, TanenbaumCHAT brought forward plans for further future expansion. In June 1999 the school seized an opportunity to lease available high school premises on Wright Street in Richmond Hill. After a hectic summer of planning and preparation, CHAT Richmond Hill Campus opened in September 1999.
Kimel Family Education Centre, Joseph & Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus
The historic establishment of a second campus, accommodating both the community’s demographic expansion north of Toronto and the increasing popularity of the school, coincided with UJA Federation’s Tomorrow Campaign, which included ambitious planning for the community’s future in York Region. The school was invited to relocate to the new ‘Joseph Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus’ on Bathurst Street, north of Highway 7.
A major gift from the Kimel Family to the Tomorrow Campaign, one of the largest in Canada designated for Jewish education, helped to establish the Kimel Family Education Centre as the new and permanent home for TanenbaumCHAT on the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus. A new structure, boasting a contemporary design and state-of-the-art resources, was built to accommodate up to 1,500 students. The school moved from Wright Street to its new location in September 2007.